Retreating off campus takes effort: We’re in college and on a budget, with little time to spare between classes, jobs and internships. But sometimes you need an afternoon away from business suits, internship hunts and wannabe lobbyists.
Ride the Red Line to Silver Spring, Md. This District suburb is a popular nesting spot for D.C. professionals and recent college gradutes, and its slow-paced atmosphere provides an escape from city life.
Your first stop should be Silver Spring Books. A rare remnant of the hard-copy world, Silver Spring Books is a used bookstore that will bring you back to childhood. Crammed bookshelves reach the ceiling and fill almost every inch of the store, leaving just enough room for you to wedge between them for hours with the perfect novel. The shopkeeper likely wouldn’t notice or care if you spent the whole day lost in a good story.
If you prefer to read at home, the books are fairly priced. I found a $10 copy of a compilation of “Great Expectations” and “A Tale of Two Cities” in mint condition, and a hardcover of “Memoirs of a Geisha” for $6.50.
When your grumbling stomach distracts you from the books, a bevy of restaurants welcomes you. Wander down the street to try something unusual: Burmese food.
At Mandalay Restaurant & Cafe, an authentic, family-run eatery, they call the chef “mom.”
Silver Spring is known for its unique ethnic restaurants, and I also passed by a tasty looking Jamaican restaurant called Negril – where I’ll be sure to stop next time.
Silver Spring Books
938 Bonifant St.
Mandalay Restaurant & Cafe
930 Bonifant St.
8225 Georgia Ave.
While at Mandalay Restaurant, I also scoped out its abundant vegetarian options. Nyat KaukSwe Gyaw ($11.99), flat rice noodles stir-fried with bean sprouts, romaine hearts, crushed peanuts and lightly fried tofu revealed itself as a heartier version of a Thai classic, Pad See Ew. A dollop of vegan sticky rice with brown sugar and coconut ($3.49) proved a filling dessert, and as we left, one of the family members waved good-bye.
As you meander back to the Metro, end the day at Zed’s Café. This is the effortlessly chill and homey coffee shop that is a rare find in the District. It is hard to pinpoint a theme here, and that is what makes Zed’s work. The walls, each brightly painted in a different color, hold an eclectic mix of art: a painting of a bullfighter, an Italian landscape, a woman pouring coffee and a postcard of German cathedrals.
The chai latte comes thick with foam and tastes all the better if you order it in a charmingly chipped mug, delivered to you resting on a mismatched Eiffel tower saucer. Zed’s also serves a mix of food options, including samosas, toasted croissants with Nutella, waffles and paninis, along with an array of foreign chocolates. The cozy armchairs, bookshelf, free WiFi, bongos and guitar beg any visitor to sit, relax and reverse the damage done by the tireless work week.
Silver Spring is charming, from the worn yellow awning of the crepe café to the comic book store on the corner. Escape your busy, urban weekdays and spend a weekend afternoon wandering this nearby neighborhood. You’ll return on the Metro happy, well-fed and feeling refreshed for the week ahead.
This article appeared in the January 28, 2013 issue of the Hatchet.